Phillies likely to target pitching in draft

Posted: June 02, 2014

Teams in all sports often get in trouble when they draft based on their needs, but the Phillies will have to consider looking for pitching, especially early in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, which runs from Thursday to Saturday.

Starting pitching is a major weakness of the Phillies' minor-league system. And while the draft is a crapshoot, the Phillies, who pick seventh in the first round, will have to seriously consider bolstering their pitching with their first selection.

"The two strongest positions [in the draft] are two of the most volatile - pitching in general and catching," said John Manel, the editor of Baseball America, a leader in draft coverage. "That is why it is difficult to predict."

It's impossible to predict what the Phillies will do, although, to this point, it looks like they might have hit a home run last year with high school shortstop J.P. Crawford, their first-round pick. The No. 16 overall pick is now The Inquirer's No. 2 prospect. Crawford entered the weekend hitting .335 at single-A Lakewood.

With a minor-league system barren in starting pitching, the Phillies, with four selections in the first 112 picks, could use this as a time to stock up.

"The first two to three rounds were seen as deep in pitching until the injuries," Manuel said.

Among the injured who will affect the draft, and especially the Phillies, are East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman and UNLV righthander Erick Fedde. Both were considered top-10 picks before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Hoffman actually was considered a top-five selection and Fedde near the back end of the top 10. Both are still likely to be selected in the first round, but not in the top 10.

So who are the arms that could be there at No. 7?

It appears San Diego high school lefthander Brady Aiken, North Carolina State lefthander Carlos Rodon, and Texas high school righthander Tyler Kolek (owner of a 100-m.p.h. fastball) will all be gone by the time the Phillies choose.

Three interesting college pitchers who could be available at No. 7 are Evansville lefthander Kyle Freeland, Hartford lefthander Sean Newcomb, and Louisiana State righthander Aaron Nola.

In its latest mock draft, Baseball America has the Phillies selecting Nola.

Apparently, Nola has been rising. Heading into the NCAA tournament this weekend, he was 10-1 with a 1.49 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 109 innings.

Of course, it's not guaranteed that the Phillies will go for a pitcher. The organization is reportedly high on Florida high school shortstop Nick Gordon, the son of former Phillies pitcher Tom Gordon and brother of Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon.

Nick Gordon has been projected to be picked before the seventh spot, but anything is possible.

Whatever direction the Phillies decide to go in the first round, this draft provides an opportunity to stock up on starting pitching prospects, so expect to see a lot of arms selected during the three-day draft.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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